Ramaphosa defends Cele’s performance as minister, ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ commentJanuary 5, 2023
President Cyril Ramaphosa has come to the defence of Police Minister Bheki Cele amid calls for him to resign because policing under his leadership has “collapsed”.
‘No direct correlation’
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen had put a question to Ramaphosa, asking how bad the crime statistics have to be for it to be no longer acceptable to the president’s administration before Cele is sacked.
“What is the acceptable average number of murders and rapes on each day beyond which the numbers are no longer acceptable to his government, before he will decide that the specified minister should be replaced?” the DA leader said.
Steenhuisen’s parliamentary question came in light of the release of the third quarter crime statistics in November last year.
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But Ramaphosa, in his written response, defended Cele.
“There is no acceptable level of murder and rapes. Society needs to work together to tackle crime, which is, among other things, a consequence of the socio-economic conditions that prevail in our country.
“There is no direct correlation between levels of crime and the performance of the Minister of Police,” the president said.
“All departments and public entities have a role to play in the reduction in crime and to protect the vulnerable in society. The same goes for broader civil society, religious organisations, political parties and various community structures, which can do much to address the causes of crime,” he continued.
In another reply, Ramaphosa told DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube that Cele was not intentionally inciting violence when the police minister called on law enforcement officers to “shoot first and ask questions later” in November last year.
Gwarube had asked what action has Ramaphosa taken to reprimand Cele for the “grossly irresponsible utterance”.
“Fighting crime has come at a cost for members of the South African Police Service across the country.
READ MORE: Getting rid of Police Minister Bheki Cele won’t solve crime problem
“Twenty-two police officers were killed between July and September 2022. Taking this into account, I am informed that the intention of the minister was to call on South African Police Service members to defend themselves from criminals whenever they are under attack,” the president said.
“The intention was thus not to incite police officers to commit violence but to defend themselves when under attack with the appropriate and proportionate use of force, and within the confines of the law.”
Cele has faced increasing pressure to vacate from office – with opposition parties, civil society organisations and police unions to calling on Ramaphosa to fire him instead.
The police minister previously said he would only resign if the president asked him to.
Ramaphosa is expected to reshuffle his Cabinet in two weeks after some current ministers failed to make it into the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) at the party’s December elective conference.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor, and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu are among officials left out of the NEC.
ANC secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, on Tuesday indicated that the president was applying his mind on a possible Cabinet reshuffle.
Cele survived Ramaphosa’s changes to his government in August 2021.
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